In our continued search for the best places to stay in Southern Africa, we sent our professional reviewer Pippa de Bruyn to scour the accommodation in Tulbagh.
Using TripAdvisor as a base, she inspected 30 of the top-ranked options in the Hotel, B&B/Inn and Speciality Lodging categories, as well as many unlisted options. The result? You won’t find a better tried-and-tested guide to the best places to stay in Tulbagh. Images by Teagan Cunniffe.
Also read: Guide to Graaff-Reinet accommodation
Why choose Tulbagh?
- The alpine farm surrounds, particularly to the north beyond the town into the Winterhoek corner, are stunning. Tucked into a tiny horseshoe valley created by the undulating Obiqua Mountains, the craggy Witzenberg peaks and the majestic Winterhoek Mountains, every vantage is backdropped by spectacular views.
- With peaks that rise to over 1500 metres, the crags of the Winterhoek Mountains are always snowcapped in winter, and the Witzenberg Mountains often dusted – as a result fireplaces are de rigueur almost everywhere (choose a place with access to water in summer though ‒ it gets darn hot).
- Church Street has possibly the largest number of Cape Dutch, Edwardian and Victorian provincial heritage sites in one street in South Africa, all beautifully restored post the devastating earthquake of 1969. Inevitably tourism has cannibalized authenticity over the years ‒ most of the historical buildings are now accommodation, with a few restaurants, so there is virtually no sense of being part of local life. That said, it’s pretty and peaceful, particularly at night, when you can wander to a restaurant through pools of old-fashioned lamp lights, serenaded by frogs and crickets.
- Wine lovers are in for a treat exploring the unsung wine estates – be sure to taste Saronsberg’s award-winning Shiraz (both of them) and Rijk’s Pinotage.
- With surrounds as beautiful as Franschhoek, but accommodation and venues half the price, Tulbagh has become a hugely popular wedding destination, and there are a variety of great options to host a small or large party. As a result it’s always busy here, and it’s worth booking well in advance, or booking for longer. A one-night stay (particularly Saturday) is invariably penalized with a higher rate; discounts are usually offered for a three-night stay and longer.
- Tulbagh is one of the most LGBT – (lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender) friendly destinations outside of Cape Town.
Best historic B&B farmhouse
1. Montpellier Manor House
TripAdvisor ranking No. 6 of 15 (B&B/Inn)
Living in the 300-year-old gabled Montpellier Manor House you can pretend ‒ for the weekend ‒ that the antique-filled rooms and sprawling estate are all yours. There’s an enormous kitchen table, fit for a banquet; lush gardens with plenty of nooks to discover; vine-shaded terraces aside a 14-metre pool; a beautiful hillside chapel; award-winning wines to taste ‒ there’s just so much to like. With four en-suite bedrooms, and a dorm-style loft (entered via a fairly steep stairway in the garden) to sleep a further 10, this would make the a great house party for a guest list of 18. If you want to accommodate more, the Annex ‒ a short walk away ‒ sleeps another eight in four bedrooms (note that the Annex can be rented as a stand- alone cottage, but the kitchen is really not up to snuff). There is also the Wooden Cottage, adjacent to the Annex, but it’s not in the same league. A short drive away are Rietdakkies ‒ three self-catering units clustered together on weathered decks; fine if you’re part of a Montpellier house party but there are better places reviewed on these pages if you’re looking for a little self-catering bolthole in the country.
Room tip: Any of the four rooms in the Manor House (except ‒ if you’re fussy ‒ maybe the one with the frilly four-poster). Gather a few friends (up to 18 if you book the loft), and you can have the entire national monument to yourself.
Cost: Manor House R600 per person B&B. Loft (one double bed and eight singles) R250 per person B&B. Annex R400 per person B&B.
Best-value small self-catering cottage
2. Kloofzicht Lake View Cottage
TripAdvisor ranking No. 8 of 15 (B&B/Inn)
Located just four kilometres south of the town of Tulbagh, Kloofzicht offers four very different self-catering options (Country House, the Loft, and two cottages), all furnished with character, sharing access to the large pool with mountain views and serviced by warm support staff. I was delighted by Lake View Cottage ‒ a compact unit with a pleasant layout, farm-style antiques, a large open fireplace and barn-style doors that open onto a deck with gorgeous mountain vistas ‒ charming. The double-storey thatched five-bedroom Country House is also worth noting: not as historic as Montpellier, or as luxuriously finished and private as more modern Oudekloof, but the five bedrooms (four en-suite) are huge and comfortable, and the kitchen dining table ‒ centred on the large open fireplace ‒ a most superb place for a long, lazy winter lunch.
Room tip: Lake View Cottage (it has a better view than Garden View Cottage) can sleep four but has only one bedroom; if you’re a bigger family but don’t want the large Country House, the double-storey Loft has two bedrooms and sleeps up to nine people.
Cost: Cottages R342 per person for the first two; R171 per person for additional guests. Country House R4332 for eight; R4788 for 10; smaller group rates by arrangement.
Best collection of wine-farm cottages
TripAdvisor ranking No. 7 of 16 ( Speciality Lodging)
Saronsberg is a wine-farm gem: a triple volume gallery-tasting room overlooks a dam from which an Angus Taylor statue rises like a mythical female Pan, as majestic as the mountain views and wines of equal stature. Once you’ve admired the art collection (considerable) and tasted the Shiraz (heaven), it’s pure decadence to pop a bottle under each arm and stroll across the lawns to your cottage and light the fire. Each of the 16 renovated labourer’s cottages is set far enough apart to enjoy a modicum of privacy but close enough to enjoy as a small or large group (the ‘village’ has a total of 51 beds). Interiors are restrained and tasteful, as you’d expect from an owner this passionate about art, and each features a large open fireplace around which the seating is arranged (sadly this convivial arrangement is rare in the valley ‒ far too many stoves stuck in corners, or braai-style fireplaces in kitchens and dining rooms). There’s also a communal pool with a very nice shaded function area, furnished with long tables and benches.
Room tip: Number 11 has unobstructed mountain views.
Cost: Cottages range between R800 (one-bedroom, sleeps two) to R1200 and R1600 (two-bedrooms, sleep four). Serious discounts offered for two or more nights.
Best private cottage
4. Raptor Rise Cottage
TripAdvisor ranking No. 3 of 16 ( Speciality Lodging)
If you’re looking for privacy and peace amid rolling fields, a deep stoep from which to enjoy the mountain panorama, a spacious lounge-dining room with a large fireplace, a well-equipped kitchen and a fair-sized swimming pool in your own private garden, Raptor Rise Cottage is for you. Averil and Bill Slater renovated this in order to stay here while they fixed up their old farmhouse, and it’s clear from the level of detail that they are perfectionists. They never did move in ‒ the cottage was commandeered by their guests, and has been busy ever since! They are now developing other buildings on the farm ‒ Bill recently renovated the stables (situated near the main farmhouse) into four very compact self-catering units (each sleeping two) and a two-bedroom family unit.
Room tip: Even if you’re just two, Raptor Rise Cottage
is the one to book. Sleeps up to eight: four in two en-suite bedrooms that lead off the lounge; the upstairs loft (accessed via an outside staircase from the kitchen door) has four single beds and glorious views.
Cost: From R1200 for Raptor Rise Cottage.
Best snow-capped mountain views
5. Mont Rouge
What a privilege to find yourself at Mont Rouge, right at the base of the towering Winterhoek Mountains, on a gorgeous 60-hectare fruit farm, in any one of these four comfortable cottages. Built as three separate units along a stream, the burbling waters are a gentle backtrack to those incredible mountain vistas. Depending on your mood, you’ll either gaze at them sprawled happily on a sofa or deck, or be tempted to clamber up. Each cottage is individually decorated with a great deal of care by Marisha du Plessis, wife to one of the two third-generation Du Plessis farmers ‒ she clearly has an innate flair for the hospitality industry, with her generous approach, and genuinely warm farm-style welcome. Marisha personifies the whole atmosphere here, which is one of gratitude and celebration for living in one of the most beautiful places on the planet. Her next project is to create swimming holes in the river for each cottage by next summer.
Room tip: Depends on your numbers. Cottage 1 (two double bedrooms and a loft with six single beds) and Cottage 2 (one double bedroom and a loft with three single beds) are semi-detached and share a deck (though they are separated with a wall, there is
a doorway), so a large group (up to 15) could rent them together as a unit. For a romantic getaway, Cottage 3 is a large open-plan living/bedroom/kitchen appropriately known as Honeymooner’s. Cottage 4 sleeps six.
Cost: Cottage 1 R2000, Cottage 2 R1350, Cottage 3 R900, Cottage 4 R1650.
Best for decadent house party
6. Guinevere Guest Farm
TripAdvisor ranking No. 4 of 16 in Tulbagh (Speciality Lodging)
Entered off the R46, you trundle along a long dirt track to the enormous family home of Guinevere Guest Farm, located out of sound and sight of any neighbours, with distant views of mountains. It is the ideal venue for a decadent house party, and that is exactly what the B&B has morphed into: the week I inspected, the farm was set to host a trance party in its nearby fields, with all the DJs and organizers accommodated in the house. There are nine enormous bedrooms ‒ eight upstairs (of which three are family rooms, each sleeping six) and one self-catering unit downstairs; altogether the house can accommodate 32 guests. Also upstairs is a generous bar-lounge opening onto the pool and decks; downstairs is a large dining room filled with art and a huge demo-style kitchen. It’s owner-managed by William Wyness and Carly Esterhuizen (Carly’s dad built the house) ‒ busy farmers, they prefer renting it out to groups (minimum 10) over weekends, but are happy to offer B&B in the week.
Room tip: All the bedrooms are enormous. The downstairs unit sleeps four, features a large fireplace and has a kitchenette ‒ a good one to book if you’re not part of a party, or want privacy.
Cost: R550 per person; up to 32 in nine rooms.
Best historic in-town accommodation
7. Cape Dutch Quarters and Tulbagh Hotel
TripAdvisor ranking No. 3 and No. 1 of 15 (B&B/Inn) respectively
If you want to be on historic Church Street, either book one of the B&B Heritage Rooms in Tulbagh Hotel, or one of the eight self-catering choices offered by Cape Dutch Quarters (CDQ). The Tulbagh Hotel is a classic country hotel, with wonderful staff who will bend over backwards to make your stay memorable ‒ they have three Heritage Rooms but are planning to renovate The Toll House (currently the best self-catering house on Church Street) to add more. Non-heritage rooms are in tip-top condition but a little bland by comparison.
With a large portfolio comprising B&B accommodation in their five-bedroom Tulbagh Country Guest House (accessed from either Church or Van der Stel Street, and a choice of self-catering units all located on Church Street, CDQ dominates the strip and acts as an informal tourism bureau for the town. Coachman’s Cottage/Family Suite (sleeps two to four) and Wagon Shed (sleeps two) are part of the guest-house complex (which has a pool); opposite are The Victorian House (sleeps six to eight) and Coach House (sleeps two); the grand Wittedrift Art Manor (sleeps up to 12 and available on a B&B basis) is a short walk away. CDQ also manages Stables and Bain’s Barn, two small converted buildings on Church Street (sleeping three and two respectively). Also in its portfolio is Travellers Lodge (three flats), but I’d not book any of these.
Room tip: The best room on Church Street is the Tulbagh Hotel’s enormous Honeymoon Suite. If you like having a kitchenette, favourites are the compact but cute Coachman’s Cottage/Family Suite (sleeps two to four) with a door opening onto a raised stoep overlooking Church Street, and Coach House (sleeps two), the quaint converted garage adjacent to The Victorian House.
Cost: Tulbagh Hotel Honeymoon Suite R1590 for two B&B, CDQ Coachman’s Cottage/Family Suite R1000 for two or from R1600 for four, (add R50 per person for Saturday) and Coach House from R700 for two.
Contact: cdq.co.za, tulbaghhotel.co.za
Best luxury farmhouse
8. Oudekloof Wine Estate & Luxury Farmhouse
TripAdvisor ranking No. 10 of 15 in Tulbagh (B&B/Inn)
Built high up on the foothills of the mountains, the gabled Oudekloof has been beautifully renovated, equipped and dressed, with a modern open-plan downstairs living space that opens onto a deck overlooking magnificent views of the vineyards and Witzenberg mountain range. The house is available on a B&B or (with advance warning) DBB basis; better still ‒ given that this has the most inviting kitchen of all the large self-catering houses in Tulbagh ‒ it can be taken over by a group of 10. There is an enormous open fireplace in the living room, a large pool from which to enjoy the views and mountain trails to cycle or walk. The old wagon route over the Obiqua is on the property and more than half the estate’s 440 hectares is set aside to protect indigenous wildlife, fynbos and renosterveld.
Room tip: There are two other smaller self-catering options on the farm but the five-bedroom main house is the one to book. Best spots are the upstairs Cabernet and Shiraz suites with gorgeous thatch ceilings and views; Shiraz and Chardonnay both have Jetmaster fireplaces.
Cost: R4000 for the whole house, self-catering (discounts on more than three nights). R450 to R650 per person B&B.
More accommodation in Tulbagh
De Oude Herberg, an elegant guest house on Church Street has been providing bed and breakfast since 1885. From R465 per person B&B.
There are also three more options outside of town worth considering:
De Hoop Cottage, part of four De Hoop Farm Cottages, is a rustic bungalow that sleeps five in two bedrooms and has great views. From R770 to R840.
Nearby Eikelaan Farm Cottages also offers excellent value self-catering accommodation in three cottages all located a stone’s throw from each other ‒ here the best option (most private; great view from the deck; two separate bedrooms) is Winterhoek Cottage, which sleeps four or six with a sleeper couch. R1000.
On the other side of Tulbagh, under the towering Winterhoek peaks (near Mont Rouge) is Fisaasbos Se Huis ‒ old-fashioned rondavels that have been combined into a three-bedroom cottage that sits under huge trees. The cottage has two bedrooms with a double bed (one with a fireplace) and a third bedroom with two bunk beds. R1600, sleeps eight (minimum two-night stay).
Also read: Guide to the best accommodation in Montagu
This article first appeared in the July 2015 issue of Getaway magazine.
All prices were correct at time of publication, but are subject to change at each establishment’s discretion. Please check with them before travelling.